The Kingspan Energy team was at the 2degrees live event in London on Friday. Attended by property owners, occupiers, energy consultants, sustainability experts and solutions providers from the construction industry, the event was an engaging exploration of effective strategies for making the case for investment in energy efficiency upgrades.
We felt it was time very well spent, and left encouraged by the appetite that clearly exists across the sector for overcoming the barriers to the development of higher performing buildings. Following are some of the key insights I took away from these discussions.
- First and foremost, it’s about the numbers – If a project doesn’t lead to cost savings or present lower risk to the organisation in terms of energy supply, then it will very rarely get the go-ahead. Yes, companies should always be mindful of their environmental responsibilities but, for investment in property upgrades to be an ongoing feature of a company’s strategy, the numbers have to stack up first. It’s no surprise therefore that, in an increasing number of cases, it’s the CFO of companies that owns the sustainability agenda.
- Actually, it’s about more than the numbers – Well, more than cost savings. Investment in renewables and energy efficiency becomes more strategic if it contributes to a maintained competitive advantage. For example, we learned how new M&S retail properties with higher performing insulated building envelopes can lead to just a one degree reduction in temperature overnight, compared with what would typically be a nine degree loss. Furthermore, better lighting in a retail environment improves the customer experience in a way that sees people spend more time, and therefore more money, in-store. Not only do good day light levels improve staff productivity but results show they can also increase retail sales by 15-20%. So initiatives that add value to your customer help make the economics work.
- Monitoring & verification is critical – We heard from several building owners about the importance of proper follow-up with the investment committee after projects have been completed. If upgrades are to be seen as part of a long-term, sustained programme to improve building stock, it’s vital that good data is gathered that proves the initial objectives of each project have been met. A systematic approach to post-investment appraisal, backed up by monitoring and verification, is needed to prove the business case. This in turn creates buzz within the organisation, gains sponsorship at the board level, and encourages uptake of future projects.
- Rigorous planning maximises returns – With changes to feed-in-tariffs, it’s now more important than ever to conduct detailed studies of a building’s energy consumption and its possible capacity for generation. Lower tariffs mean the core benefit from renewable systems will be in addressing the on-site energy need, rather than exporting any surplus back to the grid. Businesses should use as much of what’s generated as possible, so suppliers must optimise systems to the client base load in order to ensure that clients are confident to commit to a minimum renewable energy consumption.
- Suppliers should guarantee performance – Providers of energy efficiency solutions are quick to talk about their unshakable confidence in the performance of their systems. But not enough of them actually guarantee it. We should help de-risk investment in renewable upgrades by having minimum levels of performance actually written into contracts.
So these were the five insights that resonated most with us – because at Kingspan, we believe real progress towards improved environmental performance of buildings will come when landlords can enhance the value of their assets, and tenants see reduced operational costs as a result of any upgrades carried out. In short, we’re guided by the principle that better buildings must mean better business too.
Mel Courtney – General Manager, Kingspan Energy UK & Ireland